ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Health experts in Northwest Florida say flu season started early this year, with cases rising and patients’ symptoms becoming more severe.

Because of these trends, experts at Community Health Northwest Florida recommend getting your flu shot as early as possible.

“It can take up to two to three weeks to have immunity from the flu vaccine so the earlier you can get it, the more protection you’ll have as the season progresses,” said Dr. Joseph Klawitter.

According to the Florida Department of Health, flu cases are increasing in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties.

Dr. Klawitter said they’re seeing both flu and strep cases with children specifically.

According to experts, the best ways to protect yourself are to get vaccinations, wash your hands and avoid large crowds.

Among the recommended vaccinations is the COVID vaccine, even with decreasing COVID numbers.

“Between, COVID, RSV and Influenza by themselves it can be pretty serious. But if you can a combination of those it’s even worse so anything you can do to protect yourself is what we recommend,” said Dr. Klawitter.

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